Is this a typical occurrence in Asia?

  1. Hello all~~ I'm writing in from Asia! I really missed everyone on tPF!! I did have the privilege of meeting some of the awesome ladies over on this side of the Pacific though, they are truly sweethearts! ^__^

    Anyways, as some of you know, I have been trying to find a job in Singapore so that I can move and be with my SO. I have done some interviews with the #1 choice company but so far I have not heard back since the last interview (which is over a week ago) after I sent a follow-up email.

    So, I took the advice of people around me and called up headhunters on Singapore. Some of the experience had left me open-mouthed with disbelief ... Please tell me if this is a normal occurrence and that I'm just overreacting. :s

    When I was talking to headhunters, they all started out rather nice and friendly toward me. I tried to enuniciate and speak slower as some people here have complained that my American accent was difficult to understand (one of the headhunters said so in passing). The headhunters were all impressed with my background as I described to them what I do over the phone. However, their reaction always changed when it came to the point where they asked me for my lastname.

    Here was what happened on several instances:

    Headhunter: I am really impressed with your background. I don't see any problem with finding you a job in a managerial level.
    Me: Great! *happy*
    Headhunter: So you said you are American, right? You in Singapore right now?
    Me: Yes I am.
    Headhunter: What is your name?
    Me: XXX XXXX
    Headhunter: What?? What's your lastname? I think I heard wrong.
    Me: XXXX
    Headhunter: But you said you're American. You sure you're not Singaporean?
    Me: No, I'm American. I'm a citizen.
    Headhunter: But your lastname is XXXX!!
    Me: Yes, it is. *confused*
    Headhunter: No no. You're not American. Your lastname is Asian. Americans are white. I also want you to know that you can't be a manager level.
    Me: :O

    The disturbing thing was, the similar line of conversation happened with several other headhunters as well. It really annoys me because they were nice to me until they heard my lastname correctly. Then it appears that everything else flew out the door. I mean, WHY does it matter if my lastname is not "American"?!!

    Also, the moment they felt that I was not "American" enough, suddenly my qualification was not good enough as well. It really really pisses me off. At first I just thought maybe I found the wrong headhunter, but then similar things happened with several other ones that followed.

    Another thing ... several of them were asking quite a lot of things about my personal life. They asked me if I was single, if I was do I have a boyfriend, if my boyfriend is PR in Singapore, and if so what are my plans with him. I don't quite understand why these line of questioning ... isn't it private???

    Are these normal occurrences in Asia? I mean, maybe I'm just not understanding the culture ... If it's normal, then I'll just suck it up ... But right now, I'm confused.
  2. I'm so sorry you're having a tough time. In the Philippines, I know it wouldn't be a big deal whether you're born in the US of A or a local. All they care about is the applicant's background and capabilities. I'm stumped about why your last name is such a big deal.
  3. I'm not an expert with this but I believe it is a common in asian countries eg: Japan. They have this image of westerners being white and even though you grew up there and aren't asian except for your physical characteristics they can't see you as american etc. "You look like us so you are just one of us". It's all about stereotypes and perception. However, visit any asian relatives and they always dismiss you as the bumbling westerner fool :rolleyes:

    They see manager white westerners and the image is that of a tall, powerful and outspoken person. They are "the other". Heavens forbid if their manager turns out to be a small skinny little man, lol.

    Hopefully people who have actual knowledge of this phenomenon can give you some tips on whether it's worth fighting the cultural bias or not. Unfortunately, you might have to change your selling tactics and go for the "I'm singaporean but have grown up in america with western experience. As an asian I will understand your workers but also bring in western innovation". Crap I know but that's what might get you a job.
  4. Kou, so sorry to hear about your experience. I don't know if this is a typical reaction but if so, I am ashamed about the reaction of these headhunters.

    The local company I work in has a CFO who's American Chinese (he was headhunted) so obviously there are headhunters in Singapore who don't give my fellow Singaporeans a bad name.
  5. Hi kou, welcome to Singapore!

    I haven't had any experience with headhunters, so I'm not sure about the line of questioning you've been through. I am surprised at their reactions though, considering how I am sure headhunting companies in Singapore will have a lot of experience with Asian Americans in their line of work. :shrugs:

    Please don't let this get you down. I'm sure you will find something that's deserving of your experience :yes:
  6. Hi Kou,

    I think the "standard" of headhunters varies quite a bit in Singapore. It's a wide spectrum. Which industry are you looking at? If it's the financial services industry, try Robert Walters or Michael Page. They are usually more professional than the smaller outfits.

    Hope you'll find a wonderful job in SG soon! Best of luck!
  7. Hi there,
    I am from Malaysia and I do have friends working in Singapore, so far I have yet to hear anyone having a similar experience like you mentioned and some of my friends got good jobs through headhunters in Singapore..honestly, I think the person speaking to you got way out of line!

    Anyway, good luck and I'm sure you will find something good soon..there are lots of opportunities in SG!

    Take care!
  8. It's an unfortunate but sometimes typical reaction in southeastern Asia. My parents are from Malaysia, and they have expressed shock at how liberal and fair the hiring practices are here in N.America. Some old interviewers in Singapore may still be stuck in the old ways and stereotypes. I am in no way supporting their practices, but my parents have said that when they were applying for jobs, anything was fair game to question, and they were subjected to many potential points of discrimination.

    They had to: include a picture of themselves, describe their ethnic nationality (both parental sides), their marital status and sexuality, age, etc.

    I wouldn't take it too personally. It's not your fault that the headhunters are prehistoric in their unfair hiring practices. It doesn't reflect on you personally at all, it just reflects poorly on them

    *hugs* don't give up, find someone to represent you that you are comfortable with
  9. I would think by now they would know that there are tons of Asian Americans... That blue eye, blond hair, caucasian image of 'Americans' are pretty much disappearing in Japan. Maybe on the country-side you hear that kind of stereotype, but like someone said, I would expect a headhunter to be know...?

    As for asking lots of personal information... That is common in Japan, too. My goodness, we have to have pictures, our educational/employment background from kindergarten, sex, birthdate on Japanese resumes! And they ask your marital status, what your dad do and where he works for, etc., etc. about family members. It is changing, but really slowly. Sorry you are experiencing a bit of culture shock...
  10. I had an Asian classmate who wanted to apply for a English teaching position in China and the company she was going through told her that if you are not white the schools in China don't want you. So there definitely is a perception that if you are white then you are an American.
  11. Kou, I am sorry to hear about your experience!

    I do know that there is an increasing sentiment of Singaporeans who immensely dislike their fellow countrymen when they try to fake an accent (believe me, when you're Singaporean and you try to fake an accent, it's recognizable from 24,000 miles away - I am NOT kidding about this - I was in the US, on a long-d call with my BF when he heard my Singaporean friend try to use an accent, and he immediately said, "That's a Singaporean next to you, right?")

    I think asking you personal questions is out of line for a pseudo-interview call. Despite that... I urge you to perservere and not to give up! I'm sure you'll be able to find a company that will accept and value you for your talent, not your last name or how you sound. Good luck! :heart:
  12. Thanks everyone for your words of encouragement and comfort!! I'm pretty sure that I don't speak with any sort of Singaporean accent at all. In fact I have been told on several occasions that I have a very strong American accent (some said it was an L.A. accent). One of the things that really baffled me was that everyone was telling me that the finance and banking sectors are currently thriving in Singapore and that they really needed foreign talents. in fact, I was told that many foreigners who have no experience in those industries are being hired and paid quite handsomely. I have been in my industry for 5 years (and doing financial analysis for 3), I don't know why I was having such a rough time.

    Someone else told me that in Asia, it was all about connections. The problem is, I have NO connections. I only have a few more weeks before I have to head back to the U.S.. I have a job waiting for me here in the states and I may have to take it because I need the funds to pay for bills. Ideally I want to get a decent job in Singapore so I can stay with my fiance. Actually, we were planning on getting married this year (civil wedding) but to do so, both of us have to be in SG for at least 15 days prior to that. If I take the job in the U.S., there's no way they would let me go on leave for 15 days (they made it pretty clear) ...

    My dream choice is still consulting (has ALWAYS been and will ALWAYS be), but I have not heard back from the company I interviewed with ... So my second choice would be my old industry: finance/banking ... Right now, it appears I'm not having much luck with that either. Does anyone here in SG know of anyone in banks who is hiring? The headhunters aren't really working out for me, and submitting resumes through websites aren't working too well either - I was told that in SG they're not that internet-abled yet?:confused1:
  13. erm that's crazy. who on earth thinks american = "white" ??? what's wrong with these people?

    i can't even make sense of these comments and i'm shocked that it's happened more than once!! HUH??

    BTW i think every job search just takes time. i don't think it's easy to find a job in a few weeks or a month, which it sounds like what you're trying to do. while there may be other factors at play, like it helps if you know more people to give you introductions, in the end that applies generally everywhere. it opens a door but it doesn't get you a job. you either meet the criteria or you don't and especially since you;'re trying to change lines, it's going to be a longer process. and IMO it's not realistic to expect to find a job within a month. sometimes it's also about timing and being there when the opportunities open up.

    if you don't want to risk so much and give the overseas job search a longer time then maybe you should just take the job in the US. given the civil marriage requirement, maybe you should do a civil wedding in the US instead?
  14. kou, I'm wondering where you got all this information , is it from the headhunters?
    My friends applied through the internet and most large companies are definitely 'internet-abled'? Even in Malaysia and Singapore is more advanced?

    When you say finance though, what kind of analysis did you do? Was it credit, risk or equities/ fixed income?

    Are you also considering the investment line? I know that Singapore needs a lot of investment/ equities analysts...?

    Would you consider accounting firms e.g. KPMG. PWC? I know those are hiring!

    Hope I helped a little! But good luck!:flowers: everythng will work out in the end!
  15. Kou, I am sorry this is happening!!

    Sounds like you came to the right place for advice!
    I dont know beans about Singapore, but I just wanted to say that I wish you absolutely the best and I am glad to see you posting on the PF, you were missed!

    Best to you and your family <<hugs>>>:heart: :yes:

    p.s. have you thought about Hawaii??